Monday, 22 January 2018

An excerpt....


"The room was small. The soft glow of a six-armed candelabrum shone on the wood panelling, gleamed on the pewter utensils on the side table and bounced off the gleaming gold crucifix nailed to the wall. A woman sang as she rocked the carved wooden cradle to pacify the child within. Matho released the breath he had been holding, and thanked the Lord that she sat with her back to him.
Unlike the plump, matronly servants who cared for the Carnaby children, this one wore a flimsy white nightdress with soft folds bunched and tangled around her slender feet. A crimson and gold embroidered shawl hugged her shoulders. Thick, glossy hair hung down her spine, and candlelight sparked on the jewelled pin caught in its strands. When she lifted her hand, a large purple jewel flashed in the flickering light.
Did they recruit maids from the nobility these days? Fingers, pink and tiny as a bird’s foot, waved above the cradle and plucked at the woman’s hand. Delight quivered in her voice as she sang.
Matho’s throat ached.
Christ! Harry would think him a soft-hearted beggar. He eased back from the doorway, aware that any sudden movement would betray him. Once safely in the corridor, he rested his shoulders against the cold plaster wall, blinked and swallowed the lump that threatened to fill his throat.
Harry, puzzled, watched him.
Matho shook his head, and jerked his thumb in the direction of the nursery."

The snippet above  is from Abduction of the Scots Queen, out in both paperback and Kindle. The house was supposedly once Darnley's house in Stirling.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

E-book claims

The Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. 

Paula Cocozza wrote a fairly long article about this back in April 2017 asking So why is the physical book winning through? I read it with interest and then found this statement:

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

I looked back at th earlier figure: ebooks have dropped by 17%  and wondered how to match the two statements in my mind.

“It’s not about the death of ebooks,” Daunt says. (James Daunt of Waterstone) “It’s about ebooks finding their natural level. Even in the years when ebook sales were rising greatly – and clearly cannibalising physical book sales – it was always very clear that we would have a correction and reach an equilibrium.” The UK, he says, has “adopted” ebooks and they will remain a substantial market (while in France, for instance, ebooks are only 3% of the overall market). The last thing he – or any seller or publisher of physical books – wants is the death of the ebook. “We want people to read. We don’t mind how they read,” he stresses. He knows that people who read, sooner or later, will buy books.


Perhaps you'll be able to explain to me how those two claims match together.


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Scared of Amazon

Selected a wonderful list of books yesterday in anticipation of spending my gift token. Chose nine titles all from awesome books at 0.35 pence each, hopped over to checkout and stopped short. The total cost of the books was something like £3.50 - but the postage and packing charge was £28.00! 

Telling myself it was too good to be true (to get  so many titles for so little) I went away shaking my head. They were all paperback, all from the same second-hand dealer in the UK and couldn't possibly have cost that much to post them all together.

Anyway, I declined to spend that much on postage.

Now I'm looking more carefully at each screen as I go. For me Amazon seems to be a minefield. Last time I remember their system swallowed my gift card and gave me nothing in return. (I did get it all sorted out, but it makes me wary. A couple of years ago I found I had somehow selected Amazon Prime and £79 had gone from my bank account. I did not and still don't want Amazon Prime, but their screens are so trickily worded and set out that it is easy to fall into the trap. DH fell into it a year or so later. Again, we both got everything sorted and money returned, but this sort of happening does make one wary. DH wont use Amazon any more. I use it, but in fear and trembling!

Wish me luck as I try to spend my gift wisely!

Since we have snow, wind and cold temperatures forecast for my area today I've been up and walked Tim so we can now hunker down in a warm house for a few hours and see what happens. Forecasts don't always come true, but I went looking for snow pictures and found this, taken in Zermatt in 2009 when we were perched on the top of the Kleine Matterhorn in sub-zero temperatures at something like 12-13,000 feet.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A trip out



I may just re-charge my ipad and spend the rest of the day reading this thread on Twitter. What a hoot! Best thing in a long while.

In spite of today being Saturday we took a trip out to Wallington, a National Trust place not far away. It's a while since we've been there, and both self and DH had to think really hard to remember the way to get there! It's somewhere we've been hundreds of times and of course once we remembered that it is off the A68 we wondered how we could have forgotten. I guess this is one of the signs of how much information we are obliged to cram into our minds these days. Perhaps my shelves are getting full and need weeding!

Wallington

There is a whole new layout for the car park which seems to have increased at least threefold in our absence. There is also a 6-mile cycle track which we blithely assumed accommodated dog walkers as well (luckily we were correct!) and so we walked for a good hour or so through fields and woods and met only one other dog walking couple - and they were 200 yards ahead of us where the tracks converged. After doing that we didnt need to follow the crowds into the courtyard or the shop or the house; nor the walled garden either. We'll save those things for a weekday when it will be less crowded. But it was nice to go back.

As a rule I'm not overkeen on sharing bridlepaths and footpaths with cyclists as so often they are used by hulking men who hurtle by without warning and expect me and my on-lead dog to get out of their way. The family groups and the "gentle" riders I have no issues with; it is the lycra clad, crash helmeted 15 stoners who ride at 30-40 miles an hour without use of bell or voice as warning. Do they not realise that the noise they create is behind them? If they do not alert us that they are going to overtake, we do not know that they are behind us.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

More travel woes

Remember my stories of  our relatives travel woes during a journey from Australia for Christmas? Well, they were among the 13,000 tourists stuck in Zermat yesterday with all road and rail links closed by 1.60 metres of snow. (Bearing in mind that I'm only 1.65 metres, that seems a awful lot of snow!) We feared that their onward flight back home to Sydney would be missed in the chaos.

However these members of the Black family are nothing if not resourceful. Last night we received  news that they were safe in Zurich, having got a helicopter flight from Zermatt to Tasch where they picked up their booked hire car and drove to Zurich. This morning they should be on their way to Helsinki and from there back to Australia. 

I wonder if they'll venture this way ever again?

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Mad world

Has the world gone mad? I noticed an article  in the newspapers that made me think so. The headline claims Prince Charming is a sex-offender. Yes, that's right. Even fairy tales are now under the microscope and declared wanting.

 Check out the full article Here


Kazue Muta, a professor at Osaka University has reportedly claimed that certain fairytale princes are less about romance and instead perform "quasi-compulsive obscene sexual acts on an unconscious partner". 


I might have thought the professor was joking, presenting an argument that would bring her a little publicity but when I saw the title of one of her other books, I abandoned that idea ~ Boss, That Love is Sexual Harassment! 


The article is sketchy to say the least.  I glanced at the first few comments and could not help a smile. "Next time Prince Charming sees a damsel in distress he should let her rot," says one, and you can see why. Why are (some) women so keen on men bashing these days? 

It seems that (some) women are keen to break down the male/female roles that have existed for centuries, forgetting that other women are more than happy with the way things are. 


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A new beginning, or An overhaul

If you are like me, you write a profile biog to Facebook or Twitter and promptly forget about it. The same goes for book blurbs on my blog, not to mention cover photos that ought to have been updated. Something I read on Facebook yesterday jabbed at my (guilty) conscience and partly because it was New Year's Day, I looked at some of the old information about myself and my books and quickly decided it needed up- dating.

It is such a quiet time of year now that the festivities are over and guests have gone on to other countries that it is a good time to reconsider how I present myself. Unfortunately while I have gained in writing experience over the last decade, and learned various ways of attempting PR, I have also gained a few more lines and wrinkles than I used to have, so I am not so keen on putting up new photographs of myself unless I go for the misty, half veiled approach - which might work!

They (those pundits who know so much about these things) keep telling me that paper books are on the rise again, and certainly my e-book sales have slowed this year. It is hard to get a definitive view of what is really happening with so many conflicting reports from journalists and the various publishing and book bodies out there. I often wish I had started  writing a lot earlier than I did, but I can't change that. I enjoy what I do, so I'll keep on doing it,and try to be a little more pro-active with my PR stuff. I'm fit and healthy as we embark on 2018 and the only thing that gets between me and my writing is the time I spend with my husband and my dog. Oh, and Facebook. And Twitter. And probably a few other things I've forgotten....

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Saga continued

Our guests were due to leave us for Italy on Friday 29th. As of Thursday night at ten minutes to midnight, the two missing cases were delivered to our doorstep. As someone said dryly "Made the delivery inside three days, but only just. Now they don't have to pay compensation." True, except they are going to get a claim for a very expensive suitcase - the only one to arrive when they did - which was "damaged beyond repair " and has gone off to Italy sealed up with strong duct tape.

Snow arrived here on Friday on purpose to complicate matters further. The snow fell lightly as they left our drive in convoy to return the hire car to Team Valley and then the three of them, three suitcases and a pushchair all squeezed in with DH for the trip to the airport. By the time DH came home the snow was lying and making the hills very skiddy. Since we live on the side of a hill, it was a bit of a concern, but he made it safely. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief but then came the news that their flight to Heath Row was delayed - would they make the connection to Italy?

Everything flew, if a little later than scheduled, and they finally arrived at their hotel in Bologna at 2am. It's enough to put one off flying at Christmas ever again!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The saga of the missing cases

Continuing the saga of our guests and their journey - they finally arrived here on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve - with only one case.  I think they spent 32 hours on planes all told. Not a journey they want to repeat anytime soon.

Only one of them has any clothes to change into. This morning we've borrowed a jacket for  the grandson so he can go outside, and one of my coats has come into service for his mother. the two cases containing their gear and everyone's clothes for the skiing trip they  will be enjoying in a couple of days time - they are "coming by taxi" from Manchester airport. I've lost count of how many times we've been told that. They were to arrive during Christmas day evening, but we're still waiting. I'm on duty at home in case they arrive (sorry, no pun intended!) while the family have gone off to visit the old home town of Durham.

Monday, 25 December 2017

We're ready

We were expecting to pick up guests from Australia  at Newcastle airport yesterday around midday, but Christmas travel can be so fraught. After a 14 hour flight from Sydney their plane circled Dubai about six times bfore the pilots decided they were running out of fuel and landed at Al Ain airport in the desert about 113 miles away. Unbelievably, fog had closed Dubai down. No one was allowed off the plane so they sat there for another 9 hours before being taken to Dubai and a hotel and then boarded  a plane around 2am and arrived in Manchester around 7am

 Their luggage, of course, had gone missing by then. but they were promised that their cases would arrive on the next flight into Mancester at 11am. They waited. One case arrived. Two are still wandering somewhere between Manchester and Dubai. Our guests (2 adults and a 3 year old grandson are) on ther way north in a hired car.
What a journey - and it isn't over yet. We can't drown out sorrows - or theirs - because we need to be sober enough to drive to Newcastle airport to pick them up when they turn in the hired car.

So we're celebrating everything a day later than usual.  Happy Christmas!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Almost Christmas

No doubt because it is almost Christmas the internet is abysmally slow these days and used as I am to a fairly fast system, I get irritated when things don't load or behave as they should, so I shall not be spending long  on my pc today. Every shop I've ever purchased anything from in the last millenium is sending me adverts - every day - and no doubt the same is true for every shopper - and we wonder why the internet is slow....I posted some pics to myself sometime last week and they have yet to arrive in my in-box, so goodness knows what else I may be missing. 

I shall post instead the new cover I'm using for the Matfen Affair. I started to dislike the one I had for no very good reason;  I couldn't say exactly what I disliked about it, but perhaps I've used it for too long, or it was boring to begin with or simply too similar to the Gybford Affair. Well, it is quite distinct from it now!

I enjoyed a blog about the secret writing rules this morning and decided to post a link to it -
http://annerallen.com/2017/12/secret-writing-rule


Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Battle of Solway Moss

Battle of Solway Moss 24th November 1542

On the 18th November Sir Thomas Wharton, Deputy Warden of the English West March and Captain of Carlisle, called out the gentlemen resident within the West March to be at Carlisle with bows and spears by sunset on 22nd November. He planned a raid on Middlebie and Langholm with the aim of both annoying and confusing the Scots who were massing at Langholm.

He returned after supper on 23rd to the news from the Lord Warden, then Lord Hertford in Alnwick almost on the east coast that a great force of Scots, estimated at between 17,000 and 19,000 men, would descend on the West March on 23rd or 24th November.

Wharton had his deputies and commanders either with him or waiting for him at Carlisle and his spies were reporting almost hourly on Scottish movements from Langholm south toward the rivers Esk and the Leven. His forces, estimated at between 300 and 3,000 men plus 100 light horse, sometimes called “prickers” seemed like no match for the opposing Scots. However, the prickers, called into existence by the eternal forays of the Scottish Border, were probably the best light cavalry in Europe.

There are five contemporary reports on the battle: original letters from Sir Thomas Wharton, (written on 23rd and 25th November) plus one from Sir William Musgrave. Two more are “reports of reports” (Lisle and Tunstall (6th Dec) and Edward Hall’s “Chronicles,” published 1548. Lisle had taken over the Wardenship from Hertford on 1st December that year and might therefore be forgiven for not having a full grasp of the battle.

Communication was not easy in the sixteenth century. Wharton gives excellent detail of the entire battle, probably because he had his clerk with him to take notes.

A smaller battle took place at Akeshawhill, one mile east of Netherby, where Jac Musgrave, a captain under his brother Sir William Musgrave, led the company and later wrote notes which were later taken up by Lisle and Tunstall, who seemed mistakenly to believe that the skirmish was the main thrust of the battle. Lisle’s report to Henry’s Privy Council omitted all mention of Wharton.

On 24th November Wharton rode out with 2,000 foot and 1,200 horse to West Linton and observed Scots riders burning Oakshawhill. Lack of a guide, November weather and the notorious Solway Bore, often up to ten feet in height, dissuaded Lord Maxwell from bringing his Scots across the shifting quicksand of the Solway to Burgh on the English coast. Instead he chose to advance via the Esk Ford at Arthuret. Wharton and his prickers met them there.

Scots horse retreated to Arthuret Holme to warn the main body of the Scots army. The Border Horse pricked at Maxwell’s rear during their retreat.
The Grames chased Scots raiders from Oakshawhill to Arthuret and from Lyne to beyond Hopesikehill. Wharton advanced and set up his six standards in a flying formation ie with wings outspread to look as imposing as possible, on Hopesykehill.

As the Scots advanced, Wharton’s two hundred archers loosed off a volley of arrows. A trained longbow man can send off 10-12 arrows a minute, so the Scots advancing uphill faced a deluge of approximately 2,000 deadly arrows followed by a charge of the notorious prickers. Disorganised and believing themselves to be facing a much larger force, the Scots retreated.

Wharton overran the Scots foot at Hopesykehill and advanced to Howse to watch the Scots army floundering at the Myln dam. They attempted to regroup and fired light ordinance at the English. Maxwell dismounted at Sandyforde and attempted to rally the main army and protect the river crossing.


Wharton sent in prickers to harry floundering Scots who panicked and ran back to the river. The Scots retreated, ran from the battle, only to be harried by Liddesdale reivers. King James escaped capture by riding hard to Stirling and then on to Falkland where he died a few days later. A few days after that, his wife, Marie de Guise, gave birth to a daughter, Mary, on 8th December 1542. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Work goes on

Now that Alba is Mine is finito and published on Kindle at 107,033 words - that's about 40,000 words less than the original - talk about paring down! I'm moving on to the next item.

I'm still toying with the idea of using Createspace again for Alba, but first I want to deal with the other story that suddenly found itself without a home due to the publisher retiring. I'm changing this storyline in this one quite a lot, so it will have a new title and a new cover. The working title is Eilidh and the Vikings, but that may change.

So once again I'm asking myself -

Have I begun the story in the best place? 
Have I made motivation clear? 
Have I shown their loves, their hates, their faults? 
Have I shown Why Things Happen? (Do I need to do this? should it not be clear without that?)
Does each scene make a point? 
Does something important change? If not, should I cut the scene?
Have I conveyed necessary info in narration?
Can I lose secondary characters?
Are my characters compelling? Do I know them?

Right now I'm thinking of writing Eilidh in the first person. I did that with the Matfen Affair and it came to me very easily. Such a good way to get closer to my heroine and get her feelings onto the page.

NB It was -4 degrees this morning when Tim and I ventured out for our first walk, so I thought a suitably frosty picture was appropriate. My eyes have been dry all day, presumably because of the cold. I was uncomfortable shopping in M&S later because my eyes felt "scratchy."

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Getting ready for Christmas

Temperatures have plunged suddenly from around 10 degrees to 1 and -1 between one day and the next. Now it is all big sweaters beneath winter coats when I take Tim out for his walk. The skies are clear and sunshine makes brilliant walking weather, for the ground is hard  instead of the slippery mud we've been used to for the last month. Around the country there is snow, but we seem to be immune - and I know that having said that, we'll likely be inundated tomorrow!

Christmas seems busier than ever this year. Shops are busy, car parks crowded - I watched one woman drive a Land Rover five times around the local Co-op car park looking for a space and each time she was unlucky. (I waited in the mini with Tim while dh went to the post office to post his cards to Australia. He said there was huge queue in the PO, which was why I could do so much observation.)

Lights are going up along our cul de sac and a couple of deer (the kind made up of white lights) are grazing front lawns. Tim barked at a white one further round the estate on our walk yesterday. He also scampered off across the field to find the  whateveritis  that has lured him away from me for the last three days. This time he brought it almost back to me before abandoning it, so I clipped on his lead and walked him across the field to it. Turned out to be a dead rabbit, still intact but rather woebegone after several days dead. I picked it up by one ear and gave it a sky burial in the thick ivy hedge that borders the field - well above my height. That should surely settle him racing away to follow the entrancing smell of dead rabbit every time we venture that way.

He had a blood test on Tuesday 5th to ensure that all is well with him taking Apoquel to stop the patch of "excema" itching. He sat like a rock while the vet stuck a needle in his neck and drew the blood and the vet - who is also called Tim - says what a happy dog he is. The result came back the same day - all is well. 

DH is downstairs making a loaf of bread and promises a big fruit cake with spices as well, so the house will smell gorgeous pretty soon. Our Christmas lights and garlands are up already this year - a special effort to welcome our grandson Alexander and his parents on a visit from Oz over Christmas before they disappear to Zermatt to go skiing. (Note to self - must dust before they arrive!)

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Taking Note

I'm a notetaker when I listen to talks, especially when the subject is writing. The trouble is I rarely go back and read the notes I've taken. Take the batch I found yesterday, torn out of a notebook and stuffed inside another, smaller notebook;  notes, unloved,  from a meeting I attended in 2014 and have totally forgotten.

The heading is "Marketing = Product - Price - Promotion - Place."
Half-hearted notes below this state that I must know to whom I am selling my product; well the answer to that is easy - anyone who reads, and will buy. Do I have an average client in my head? Of course not. I haven't a clue what kind of people read historical romances. 

Price, the notes say, reflect the quality of the  product in people's minds. Price them cheaply and people won't think they're worth buying. I didn't take note of the obvious corollary - that expensive books  must be "good quality" because I don't think that is necessarily true. I love reading and buying books, but I won't pay above a certain price for them - usually. I did pay £18 for a Dunnett hardback some years ago, but that was most definitely a "one-off." My notes say 77p/99$ is the lowest price on Amazon

Which leads to Place - where to sell?  I know the answer to this one - and in my own confused way, I have been tracking down web sites where readers are searching for romantic historical fiction. So far I've limited my efforts to Twitter and Facebook. No paid ads and no use of Instagram or anyof the other, younger sites. At least I know I shouldn't promote my books where the taste is for thrillers or crime. 

My notes say Promotion depends on whether you are selling ebook or print, but I see many authors promoting both on the same sites. I don't know if it works for them or not. It takes me all my time to promote e-books and let the reader discover there is a print copy - I did one for Queen's Courier and Abduction - when they go to the Amazon site. I hope that comes as a nice surprise.

But then, I'm probably not doing any of this as I should be doing it.